Compressing Diversity: Ethnicization of the Workforce and Outsourcing of Social Reproduction as Assets for the Italian Fashion Industry

  • Antonella Ceccagno University of Bologna, Bologna
Keywords: fashion industry, Chinese migrants, immigrant entrepreneurs, ethnicization, social reproduction


This paper provides new evidence and offers a new theoretical framework for the analysis of the mode of emplacement of Chinese migrants in the Italian fashion industry. My research brings to light two conditions as keys to understanding the role played by the migrants in the generation of profit: (1) the compression of workforce diversity through a process of ethnicization, and (2) the restructuring of social reproduction. In order to shed light on these processes, this paper engages with the scholarly debate on immigrant entrepreneurship. It questions the conceptualization of workshops owned by Chinese migrants as “ethnic entrepreneurship” and suggests analyzing the workforce sharing the same national origin as a process of ethnicization of the workforce. It suggests that the mode of inclusion of the Chinese migrants should be viewed in the framework of globally fostered politics of production—especially fast fashion strategies—and as part of the diversification of labor. Using previously untapped data on labor market dynamics and based on extensive fieldwork, I show that the previously existing balance of power between employers and workers is now shifting as a result of the scarcity of skilled workers and migrants’ mobility outside of manufacturing activities.


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How to Cite
Ceccagno, A. (2016). Compressing Diversity: Ethnicization of the Workforce and Outsourcing of Social Reproduction as Assets for the Italian Fashion Industry. Social Science Asia, 2(1), 92-111. Retrieved from
Research Article